The Global RF/Microwave Semiconductors Industry Update 2017

The Global RF/Microwave Semiconductors IndustryUpdate 2017

Strategic report focussing on the players & the industry RF diodes, RF transistors MMICs/RFICs GaAs, GaN SiGe BiCMOS RF CMOS, etc Market data for years: 2016 2022

15 Figures(mainly pie charts)and 14 Tables.

ES.1 Major Changes Comparing the Earlier Report

This updated report on the global RF/microwave semiconductors industry contains some major changes compared with the earlier version. In particular:

  • Silicon-based RFICs (including mixed-signal chip-sets) are now included. Most notably SiGe BiCMOS and RF CMOS technologies and players.
  • Company changes are identified, important acquisitions are identified and their influences analysed.
  • The expansion of the fabless segment is reported in detail – with new fabless players cited.
A total of 75 players are identified – 67 of which are companies offering MMICs/RFICs. Many are active exclusively in the MMICs/RFICs space and this area occupies a major part of this report.

Major players covered in this report include: Analog Devices, Global Foundries, Infineon Technology, MACOM, Microsemi, Northrop Grumman, Peregrine Semiconductor, Qorvo, Qualcomm, Skyworks Solutions, TowerJazz and Wolfspeed.

ES.2 Notably Influential Companies

We applied several filters to determine which companies are – in our opinion – particularly influential in this industrial segment. Examples of our filters: strong fabless concerns, companies that are well into RF silicon or well into GaN.

ES.3 Global Markets Summary

Based on recent research the main market data are shown in Figures ES.1 (for year 2016) and ES.2 (for year 2022). {pie charts for year 2016 and year 2022}

Important note: the data in Figures ES.1 and ES.2 exclude countries like China, North Korea, Russia and “anti-Western” countries in the Middle East.

From these pie charts it can clearly be seen the greatest increases (by far) in the markets over the period are due to:
  • MM-wave MMICs.
  • Discrete RF Transistors.
In the first instance – for MM-wave MMICs – this huge increase (more than doubling) is mainly due to early applications into 5G networks (notably those centered on the 28 GHz band).

As far as discrete RF transistors are concerned these devices will increasingly adopted for (mainly) hybrid RF power amplifier modules utilizing GaN HEMTs.

ES.4 Discrete Diodes and Transistors

Many RF circuits still demand discrete diodes and/or transistors – as opposed to MMICs/RFICs. Important examples include most types of logarithmic amplifiers (“log-amps”) where the accuracy demanded usually cannot be obtained by attempting to implement using MMICs/RFICs. Another example is briefly mentioned viz: hybrid RF power amplifier modules utilizing GaN HEMTs.

ES.5 MMICs/RFICs Technologies, Industry Structure and Dynamics

ES.5.1 Silicon and Compound Semiconductors

Ideally all electronics, without exception would be implemented using some form of silicon process – the fundamental devices being silicon transistors and most likely CMOS. Indeed practically all conventional digital processing (computers and computer-like systems) implement CMOS circuitry.
But it has long been appreciated that CMOS cannot always be counted on to provide several necessary functions for all microwave and millimeter-wave systems. The main reason is ‘buried’ deep within silicon technology, notably a fundamental semiconductor characteristic termed: mobility. Certain compound semiconductor materials, notably gallium arsenide (GaAs), gallium nitride (GaN) and indium phosphide (InP) possess substantially higher mobilities than silicon and, in particular, GaAs MESFET (“GaAs FET”) transistor technology remains quite pervasive today.

GaAs FET – based MMICs are commercially available providing the following types of functions: LNAs, switches, some medium-power amplifiers, etc.. InP-based MMICs are more applicable for higher frequencies such as millimeter-wave but GaAs has caught up to the extent that InP is now mainly reserved for fiber-optic applications. GaN HEMT (high-electron-mobility transistor) technology is chiefly suited to high-power applications and has now become mainstream with important applications into communications transmitters and radar systems.

On the silicon transistor front feature sizes have in recent years meant that silicon-transistor-based RFICs entered the RF scene (“RF CMOS”). Transistors (FETs) on RFICs with minimum feature sizes in the 20 nm, 15 nm and (soon) even 5 nm are now commercially available. A related (and very important) technology known as FinFET is implemented by several players for their silicon-based products. Most “conventional” semiconductor technology is essentially two-dimensional but FinFET is 3D in that the controlling transistor gates can be shrunk – enabling much faster operation. The following players offer FinFET technology for RFICs: Global Foundries (7 nm), Samsung (10 nm), TSMC (10 nm) and UMC (28 nm).

There are several alternative variants of silicon RFIC technology, for example Peregrine Semiconductor’s patented “Ultra CMOS”. Combined bipolar transistor/CMOS circuits can be made to run much faster by adding germanium to silicon, forming what is generally termed SiGe BiCMOS (sometimes just “SiGe”). Many manufacturers and foundries offer this process which can function well into millimeter-wave. More details are provided in the following sections.

ES.5.2 IDMs, “Fab-Lite” and Fabless Companies

Semiconductor device companies are categorized according to three overall classes: indigenous device manufacturers (IDMs), “Fab-Lite” or fabless. The latter (fabless) is an area exhibiting strong business growth. An IDM retains in-house all operations: design/IP, marketing/sales – and actual manufacturing. Examples in the MMICs/RFICs context include METDA, Qorvo and Wolfspeed. A “Fab-Lite” concern has some of its manufacturing in-house and the remainder of its business “fablessly” by using a manufacturing foundry partner. Specific examples include Analog Devices and Infineon. Finally, a fabless operation performs all functions with the notable exception of manufacturing – which (like Fab-Lite) is sub-contracted to a manufacturing foundry partner. Examples include Anokiwave, GigPeak and Plextek RFI. These three distinct categories are indicated in Figure ES.3.

Figure ES.3 Three Main Categories of Semiconductor Companies

{chart with three block-column items}

Important manufacturing foundry partners include: xxxxxxxx. Every foundry tends to be associated with a specific “process” which may be GaAs HEMT, GaN pHEMT, SiGe BiCMOS, etc. This “process” defines the types of transistors that will be designed-in to each MMIC or RFIC. For the purposes of the remainder of this report we will simplify these distinctions by combining Fab-Lite and Fabless – embracing both under “fabless”.

ES.5.3 Players and Types of Products Designed/Manufactured

We have identified a total of “P” players designing and/or manufacturing MMICs. These have their headquarters and main operations located variously worldwide although the majority are in the USA. Many of the smaller companies are dedicated to and specializing in the design or manufacture of MMICs/RFICs and most players operate foundries active in at least one or two of the target semiconductors. Several of these players are fabless – a business model that is steadily growing in importance. Many players (especially manufacturers) are now addressing China both in terms of sales outlets and increasingly also local manufacturing. Additionally, China has been XXXXX. TSMC is used as short for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation and UMS is short for United Monolithic Semiconductor.

The results of our research are summarized in Figure ES.4.

Figure ES.4 “MMIC/RFIC Players Segmented by Semiconductor Material Type”

The main feature – XXXX. GaN-based MMICs are already offered by one-third of the players and this proportion is expected to steadily increase. This technology is mainly important for relatively high-power systems – although some low-noise designs also benefit (notably the substantially higher resistance to input power surges).
The use of InP-based MMICs in RF applications is steadily decreasing. InP technology is however important for photonic circuit implementation (e.g. fiber-optic transceivers).

Main applications for the MMICs/RFICs offered by the identified players are summarized in Figure ES.5. In this pie chart the following abbreviations are used:
ACC = autonomous cruise control (vehicle head-up radars, typically 78 GHz).
BS = base stations (also the associated cell-phone transceivers).
ISM = industrial, scientific and medical.
MM Comms = communications systems using millimeter-waves (N.B. 5G).
SATCOM = satellite communications.

{Figure ES.5 MMIC/RFIC Players Segmented by End-User Application segment}

Apart from ACC – which occupies only X% of the players – the results here are roughly uniformly spread. The actual spread of results is (in % terms):

X ≤ % ≤ Z With the smallest occupancy (X%) applying to qqqqqqq and the largest (Z%) occupied by qqqqq. We expect these proportions to continue approximately applying throughout the forecast period (i.e. at least through 2022).

At this stage we consider the very important aspect relating to the type (and main country) of each player. Types are separated into the following two headings:

Indigenous Device Manufacturers (‘IDMs’ – mostly ‘pure-play’ & including foundries), or: Fabless concerns (i.e. players designing & marketing MMICs/RFICs – contracting foundries for the actual manufacturing).

ES.5.4 Summary of IDMs and Fabless Players

Our research revealed approximately equal numbers of IDMs (pure-play and foundries) and fabless operations – thirty players under both classifications. Globally only seven players are operating as “pure-foundries”. See also Section ES.5.2 above.

It is also clear that:
  • Exceptionally, XXXXX operate as a (silicon-based) IDM as well as a fabless facility as a result of their acquisition of the earlier XXXXXX several years back.
  • Five players function as IDMs but also offer foundry facilities: XXXXXX.
We have identified a trend towards fewer IDMs and more fabless operations.

Geographically the USA leads in this industrial sector – with K% of the total number of players. Of the remaining M countries none exceeds Taiwan’s J players. It is seen that Japan has B players, Korea has C then China, France and Sweden have D each. D of Taiwan’s players are foundry operations: XXXX

ES.5.5 Players Offering Bare Die or Packaged MMIC/RFIC Products

Regarding packaged products, companies mainly offer the following MMICs/RFICs in the following packaging styles: BGA (ball-grid array), QFN (quad-flat, no lead), SMT (surface-mount technology).

We found that the most important (and prevalent) packaging styles are BGA and QFN. By counting-up amongst all the identified players we also found that:

The total number of players offering their products in BGA style equals the total number offering their products in QFN style (XX in each case).

The remaining YY players either offered their products in non-BGA/non-QFN style packages – or exclusively bare die.

Executive Summary
ES.1 Major Changes Comparing the Earlier Report
ES.2 Notably Influential Companies
ES.3 Global Markets Summary
ES.4 Discrete Diodes and Transistors
ES.5 MMICs/RFICs Technologies, Industry Structure and Dynamics
ES.5.1 Silicon and Compound Semiconductors
ES.5.2 IDMs, “Fab-Lite” and Fabless Companies
ES.5.3 Players and Types of Products Designed/Manufactured
ES.5.4 Summary of IDMs and Fabless Players
ES.5.5 Players Offering Bare Die or Packaged MMIC/RFIC Products
A. Product Design, Players & Sales Networks
A.1 Introduction
A.2 Marketing and sales operations
A.3 Players Identified by Product Category
A.4 Brief Profiles of the RF/Microwave Semiconductor Product Players
AMCOM Communications
Analog Devices
API Technologies
Avago Technologies
(Avago acquired Broadcom (see below) and the decision was then made to retain the trading name “Broadcom”).
BAE Systems (Sanders operation)
Comlent Technology
Custom MMIC
e2v Technologies
Global Communications Semiconductors (GCS)
Global Foundries
Guerrilla RF
HRL Laboratories
Infineon Technologies
Integra Technologies
Keysight Technologies
Lattice Semiconductor
Level One
Linear Technology
Massachusetts Bay Technologies
Maxim Integrated Products
Media Tek
Microwave Technology (MwT)
Mitsubishi Electric
M-Pulse Microwave
NEDI Technology Co. Ltd (‘NEDITEK’)
New Japan Radio (NJR)
Northrop Grumman
NXP Semiconductor
(This company was included and profiled in the earlier Global RF Semiconductors industry report. However, in 2016 NXP was acquired by the US firm Qualcomm, q.v.).
ON Semiconductor
Peregrine Semiconductor
Plextek RFI
RFIC Solutions
RF Integration
Samsung Electronics
Sivers IMA
SJM Prewell
Skyworks Solutions
ST Microelectronics
Sumitomo Electric Device Innovations (SEDI)
Teledyne Technologies
Texas Instruments
TLC Precision Wafer
Toshiba America Electronics Corporation (TAEC)
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)
United Microelectronics Corporation
United Monolithic Semiconductor (UMS)
Viper RF
Virginia Diodes
WIN Semiconductor
WON-TOP Electronics
A.5 Some Major Corporate Changes Since the Release of the Previous Report
A.5.1 Fabless Companies
A.5.2 Companies now Excluded
A.5.3 Notably Influential Companies
A.5.4 Companies by Size
A.6 Global Markets Summary

Section B: Discrete RF/Microwave Semiconductors

B.1 RF Diode Types and Main Applications
B.2 RF/Microwave Transistors
C. MMICs/RFICs Technologies, Industry Structure and Dynamics
C.1 Semiconductor (Transistor) Technologies and Types of Players
C.1.1 Semiconductor (Transistor) Technologies
C.1.2 IDMs, “Fab-Lite” and Fabless Companies
C.2 Details of the Players and Types of Products Designed/Manufactured
List of Figures
Figure ES.1 TAMs ($M) for RF Semiconductors, 2016
Figure ES.2 TAMs ($M) for RF Semiconductors, 2022
Figure ES.3 Three Main Categories of Semiconductor Companies
Figure ES.4 MMIC/RFIC Players Segmented by Semiconductor Material Type
Figure ES.5 MMIC/RFIC Players Segmented by End-User Application Segment
Figure A.1 Marketing and Sales Operations of Different Levels/Maturities of Players
Figure A.2 Numbers of Companies by Size (Overall: 2016)
Figure A.3 Numbers of Companies by Size (Overall: 2022 - Broad Estimates)
Figure A.4 TAMs ($M) for RF Semiconductors, 2016
Figure A.5 TAMs ($M) for RF Semiconductors, 2022
Figure C.1 Three Main Categories of Semiconductor Companies
Figure C.2 MMIC/RFIC Players Segmented by Semiconductor Material Type
Figure C.3 MMIC/RFIC Players Segmented by End-User Application Segment
Figure C.4 MMIC/RFIC Players by Type of Operation (early 2017)
Figure C.5 MMIC/RFIC Players by Country of Major Operation (early 2017)
List of Tables
Table ES-1 Notably Influential Companies
Table ES-2 Identified Manufacturers of Diodes and/or Transistors
Table A-1 RF/Microwave Semiconductor Device Players by Product Category
Table A-2 Firms Excluded Here (but were included in the earlier report)
Table A-3 Notably Influential Companies
Table A-4 Companies Having Annual Revenues Around or Exceeding US$1BN
Table A-5 Companies Having Annual Revenues in the Hundreds of US$M League
Table A-6 Main Market Data for the Major Product-Type Divisions (TAMs in $M)
Table B-1 Types of RF Diodes & their Main Applications
Table B-2 RF/Microwave Semiconductor Diode Manufacturers – HQ Locations
Table B-3 Manufacturers of Discrete RF/Microwave Transistors
Table B-4 RF/Microwave Discrete Transistor Manufacturers – HQ Locations
Table C-1 Types of Semiconductor Materials Utilized by the Identified IC Players
Table C-2 Main Applications for the MMICs Available from the Identified Players
Table C-3 MMIC Players: IDMs, Fabless Operations & HQ Country
Table C-4 MMIC Players: Bare Die & Packaged Products - Examples

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